Beyond the tourist honeypots where sun and sea are the main attraction, Lesbos, Greece oozes history and culture for arty, alternative visitors. Among celebrated former residents, such as the Nobel Prize poet Elytis, painter Theophilos and – most famously – the ancient Greek poet, Sappho. Of course, you can laze away the days bronzing on sensational beaches, or drinking coffee in idyllic squares, but this unique island wants you to live a little, whether you’re into birdwatching, hiking or museum-going.
In the capital Mytilini, the Theofilos Museum is a treasure trove of one artist’s legacy – with more than 80 paintings inspired by folk art, history and mythology. It was founded by Mytilenian publisher and art critic Stratis Eleftheriades, aka Teriade, whose influence on Greek art led to his own museum: the Teriade Library-Museum in Varia. See works from his vast archives as well as notable 20th-century works by giants Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
With deep, clear waters, Lesbos has long drawn scuba divers. Lesvos Scuba Centre at Charmida Beach has 18 years of experience and a range of PADI-certified programmes. You can try a beginners’ course in the afternoon, book a three-day full certification, or choose one of the advanced open-water courses. If you’re really keen they offer excursions to more than 30 dive sites – from shipwrecks and caves to reef exploration trips.
Spring and autumn lure twitchers to witness migrating birds en route to Africa. The Kalloni Gulf wetlands rank among the best places to spot many of the 300 native and transitory species – among them are curlew, wood sandpiper, Kentish plover and citrine wagtail. Indigenous types include the red-breasted nuthatch – often found nesting in pine trees in early spring. For expert information, contact Eleni Galinou, who specialises in birdwatching and photography tours.
Lesbos is an Eden for hiking and cycling. Coastal trails and inland hikes cover unforgettable terrain – with views of over-dense forests down to a dramatic coast. Well-maintained circular and point-to-point hikes are mapped by Lesvos Trails, ranging from short routes through olive groves around Plomari town to Mount Lepeymnosis and its rugged terrain. For experienced mountain cyclists, the 50km (31mi) route from Erissos along the Lava Trail will thrill. Get your bike rental from Molyvos Bikes.
To pretty much guarantee your own private place in paradise, look no further than Vatera beach. At 7km (4.3mi) in length, this pebble-and-sand strand simply cannot become crowded – even in the peak weeks of August. The main stretch can be found at the village of Vartera – with a sprinkling of tavernas in which to while away the hours over beers. This unravels outwards to more peaceful spots, further along, the beautiful coastline. With clear shallow waters, it’s perfect for families.
It’s a big island, which explains the variety of architectural styles: from Mytilini’s neoclassical mansions to mountain villages dominated by greystone houses and coastal settlements of pastel homes with terracotta roofs. Don’t miss the sahnisia-style dwellings with their protruding wooden windows. For Byzantine currents, visit the 13th-century Castle of Molyvos – or Mithimna – looming above the village in gothic splendour. The views out are idyllic at sunset.
With more than 20 distilleries, Lesvos is the home of ouzo. Distinctly aniseedy, the zero-waste byproduct of winemaking blends ingenuity with tradition. Try a tot in any traditional taverna – best with local mezes, such as sardeles pastes (fresh raw sardine) or gouna (sun-dried spiced mackerel). For an insight into the process, visit the Museum of Ouzo in Plomari: a taste experience at the distillery of Isidoros Arvanitis – one of the island’s largest, established in 1894.
There are a great selection of bars on Lesbos, but if you feel like exploring more of Greece you should check out some historical sites in Athens. As well as a number of great beaches nearby, there’s a great choice of boutique hotels and other hotels that you can book now on Culture Trip.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.